[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]South African households waste more than 400 000 tons of food per year. If you don’t want to contribute to this number – good. Annique shares some of the ways she reduces her food wastage at home.
My parents raised me to finish whatever I put on my plate, and store away leftovers for a next meal. If I didn’t manage to eat up my meal at a restaurant, I’d either ask for a doggy bag or give it to the hungry. Still today I refuse to waste food, and this mindset has resulted in very smart grocery shopping and cooking skills that more or less eliminate the chances of any food going bad under my supervision.
Unfortunately many people don’t put a lot of effort into minimising food wastage (or sustainability in general). I’m not sure how some people live in a country like South Africa, where hunger and poverty are abundant, yet still put no effort into being sparing with food.
If you feel like you could be more active in the way you manage your food wastage at home, keep reading.
Into the Bin it Goes
Have you ever watched in agony as someone scrapes heaps of perfectly edible food into the garbage bin? Having worked as a waitress for various restaurants and catering companies, I’m quite familiar with that sight. It drives me absolutely crazy to know that the food industry throws away massive quantities of delicious food each day, while thousands of people are, on a very literal scale, starving to death.
According to Dr Suzan Oelofse’s research, South African consumers and households waste around 450 000 million tons of food each year. Shocked? What if I told you that this only makes up around 5% of South Africa’s total food wastage, which is estimated to be over 9 million tons each year.
My little Anecdote…
A few months ago I went to Checkers to buy my regular tub of lactose-free yogurt, but all of the tubs happened to have expired on the previous day. Now, it’s no secret that yogurt, like many foods, is still perfectly edible even a few days after the labeled expiry date. So, there I walked to the till with my expired, but unspoilt tub of yogurt. I decided to point the date out to the cashier to possibly score a discount. Well, it turns out that not only was a discount wishful thinking, but they flat out refused to sell me the yogurt at all. I tried to argue that it’s fine, and demanded to speak to the manager in hopes of getting permission to buy it.
The only thing the manager said was,
“I’m not allowed to sell this to you.”
Did I cause a little scene? Perhaps. But what else was I supposed to do when they were pretty much telling me that they are going to pour the content of all of those tubs down the drain…
Reducing Food Wastage in Your Home
[su_note note_color=”#f24038″]What not to do, mense.[/su_note]
Though they deserve a pat on the back for trying, some people got the whole food wastage thing all wrong. Here’s what not to do.
- Stuff yourself.
Your body is a temple.
Betcha heard that one before. Seriously, though, trying to reduce food wastage by stuffing your stomach to the brim of explosion is in actual fact just an excuse for you to deny the fact that you gave in to a binge. Yeah – the cat’s out of the box. Now go sit in the corner and think about that.
- Stuff your pet.
Again, not cool. Your pet ain’t your garbage bin. Feeding your pet leftovers can be fine if it’s a substitute and suitable for the animal. But if you’ve already fed your pet, and then still fill up the food bowl with your leftovers just so feel you’re not wasting… your theory is very questionable.
Exception: if you spill something on the floor, it’s absolutely justified to call your dog and use him as a vacuum cleaner or automated mop.
- Blame it on being macho.
Back in Matric, the guys in my grade used to brag about the amounts of sushi they could eat, and the fact that they couldn’t walk after an all-you-can-eat session. I used to think,
“What the heck? Idiots.”
Also, if you’re one of those ladies that entertains your boytije’s bravado by pretending that you’re full (when you’re actually not) and he then finishes your meal on top of his own… please just don’t. Rather order from the kiddies section, if you must.
[su_note note_color=”#64e579″]What to do.[/su_note]
There are plenty of ways. However, since I feel strongly about this topic, here are some of the ways that I try to minimise my food wastage – and how you can too.
[su_service title=”Your Friend the Freezer” icon=”icon: hand-o-right” icon_color=”#2c9dc1″ size=”24″] I like buying food in bulk – whether it’s the awesome box of peaches from Fruit and Veg, or half a kilo of boerewors. When I cook meals, I generally cook everything in one go, then take out 2-3 meals’ worth of food that can sit in the fridge, and freeze the rest. Not only does this eliminate waste, but I don’t have to worry about cooking the rest at a later point (score on electricity costs too). I can just take it out at a later point and let it defrost the night before I want to eat it (perfect for busy schedules).[/su_service]
[su_service title=”Tupperwear It” icon=”icon: hand-o-right” icon_color=”#2c9dc1″ size=”24″] The less oxygen and warmth come into contact with your food, the longer it will last. All I’m saying is Pro Vitas. Yeah, no one likes the surprise sogginess of those crackers. Pack your food into a Tupperware or airtight container and store it wherever it’s more suitable – pantry or fridge. I promise it works like a charm.[/su_service][su_service title=”Scrutinise the Best-Before Date” icon=”icon: hand-o-right” icon_color=”#2c9dc1″ size=”24″] I think my yogurt story made this clear. Just because the label says that something has expired, doesn’t mean you can’t eat it. When I do discover something that has apparently expired, I smell or taste to see if it’s still okay – especially when it’s just 1 or 2 days after the best-before-date.[/su_service]
[su_service title=”Learn About Mould” icon=”icon: hand-o-right” icon_color=”#2c9dc1″ size=”24″] No, if my yogurt has a layer of green, webby mould swimming on its surface, I’m not going to eat it. However, not everything with mould is totally inedible. It’s actually worth reading up on this, because sometimes you can just cut off the mouldy bit and still enjoy the rest (unless you are my sister – no hope there).
Check out this super informative site to learn more about the weird and wonderful world of mouldy foods and health safety.
Oh and if you are weirded out now, give me a break. We all know that student fridges have been producing free penicillin since… forever. Yours is probably no exception. [/su_service]
[su_service title=”Give it Away” icon=”icon: hand-o-right” icon_color=”#2c9dc1″ size=”24″] Do you have food leftover that you know you won’t finish? We live in a country where hungry people aren’t hard to find. Give it to a beggar on your way to work, or perhaps surprise a car guard with your leftovers – who doesn’t appreciate home-made food?
If you happen to have a lot of leftovers from a dinner party or function, or if you know anyone in the food industry who does – make sure you read our Q&A with Food 4 Thought. It’s a Cape Town-based NGO that matches food businesses with charities so that any leftover food can get donated instead of thrown away.[/su_service]
[su_service title=”Get Creative” icon=”icon: hand-o-right” icon_color=”#2c9dc1″ size=”24″] The other day I bought a tub of pickled fish, mainly because I love the curry sauce. Since there is more sauce than fish, quite a lot of it is leftover. But instead of pouring it down the drain, I used it to flavour up some veggies I made the next day.
Another little creative waste reduction project I started is to add leftover veggies to some chickpeas and blend it all together into a tasty dip. A little creativity will go along way in reducing waste (plus, the stuff tastes great).[/su_service]
[su_service title=”Compost” icon=”icon: hand-o-right” icon_color=”#2c9dc1″ size=”24″]Before you throw out your apple cores and potato peels – get knowledgable on compost. It’s such a simple and sustainable way to to reduce food wastage and supply your plants with nutrients. You can read up more on what foods are compostable on Food 4 Thought’s site.
I don’t use compost personally, because the management of my building makes it quite clear that we shouldn’t interfere with the gardening maintenance (it’s really maintained, admittedly). If I do have my own garden one day, however, compost is gonna hit that soil hard. [/su_service]
If everyone works together to waste as little food as possible, the bigger picture will change drastically. More tummies will be filled, and the economy will have some costly weight off it’s shoulders.
I always use the inspirational example of France whose new law bans supermarkets from throwing edible food away. Take that, world! It is possible to make a big difference if everyone would join in the cause.
Making a change in this world starts with you. In the famous words of Nelson Mandela,
“As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”
There are so many ways to get involved and help out. Check out where you can volunteer in South Africa or read up on how to lead a more sustainable life. If you have the slightest inkling to take the time to shine your light and start making a difference – just do it. Start right this second.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]